Friday, 30 October 2009

Sihastria Monastery

Dedication Day: “Birth of the Virgin” 8th September

The holy establishment is situated at a distance of 22km from the town of Targu-Neamt, standing in a Sub Carpathian Valley, on a location that was formerly called “Atanasie’s Meadow”. The monastery derives its name from
the name of an anchorite who constructed a skete around which there were living several other anchorites.
The founder of the monastery was Ghedeon, Bishop of Husi, who completed the construction of a church (which was built of wood), a group of monastic cells and a belfry in 1655. In 1734 Ghedeon had a bigger church erected and placed it under the direction of the Secu Monastery. It was also through his persevering efforts that the monastery received a Royal Authorization from Grigore Ghica Viovode, which conferred upon it certain special privileges and tax-exemptions.
In 1799, at the time that the Neamt Monastery was headed by Paisie Velicikovski, the Sihastria Monastery became subordinated to it.
In 1821, the Turks set fire to the monastery. Three years later in 1824, the church was reconstructed of bricks and river-stones. At the same time, there
were erected four tall walls on all four sides of the church, as well as two towers – which made it look like a fortress.
A wooden chapel and several monastic cells were also constructed within the
monastery. Between 1870 and 1910, the monastic establishment remained in a state of total dereliction; afterwards, under the earnest care of some of the
residences, the church, the monastic cells and the chapel underwent extensive repairs and restoration. In 1941, a devastating fire caused great damage to the church.

Due to the fact that it was set on fire twice and remained deserted for a period of forty years, the holy establishment does not shelter any precious ecclesiastical objects or sacerdotal attire, with the exception of the icons that were painted by monk Irineu Protcenco and that were remarkably executed.
In the Sihastria Monastery lived and served Archimandrite Cleopa Ilie (deceased in December 1998), celebrated for his exemplary monastic life. Out of the monastic residents, there is the name of Father Ioanichie Balan, who authored several outstanding studies on Orthodox monasticism, among which we can enumerate The Romanian Paterikon, The Romanian Hermitic Sites, and Spiritual Dialogues.
Since 2000, repairs and restoration have been made and the main church has been repainted by Archimandrite Vartolomeu Florea. Also, a new church has been erected; its patron saint is “Venerable Mother Teodora of Sihla”; the church was consecrated by Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch, and by Patriarch Teoctist on October 12th, 1997.

The following sketes have been affiliated to the Sihastria Monastery:

Sihla Skete – convent for monks, situated at a distance of 4 km from the Sihastria Monastery, Neamt county. The monastic establishment was founded at 1730. The church was constructed of wood in 1813. Its dedication day is the “Nativity of Saint John the Baptizer”. In the immediate vicinity of the church of the skete, under a cliff, there stands a small fir-tree church, whose dedication day is “The Transfiguration”, and which was constructed during the reign of Ionita Cantacuzino Voivode in 1763. Not far from this church there is the cave of Mother Teodora, who lived as a hermit in these parts towards the end of the 17th century and at the beginning of the 18th century. She was born around the year 1650, and was the daughter of the boyar Joltea (the provost marshal of the Neamt Fortress at the time). In her youth she was married, then she retired to the Varzaresti Monastery (which was situated in the Vrancea Mountains) and took religious vows there. Later, together with the abbess, she left the monastery and led an anchoritic life for fear of the impending Turkish invasion. After the death of the abbess, Teodora continued to live as a hermit, this time in a cave of the Sihla forests, feeding on sorrel and wild berries. In the immediate vicinity of the cave, there still exists the hole wherefrom she was carrying water; the hole was miraculously discovered by two monks, who, observing that several birds kept picking up breadcrumbs from the refectory and were flying away with them, resolved to follow those birds. They searched and found Venerable Teodora, who was praying and whose bodily posture was identical with Mary of Egypt, that is, she was raised
way above the ground and was wrapped in a divine light.

Teodora’s inimitable faith, as well as her outstanding moral and spiritual strength deeply impressed her contemporaries, prompting a special veneration of her, which in time, would spread out all over Moldavia and Eastern Transylvania.
In memory of her overpowering spirit and in pious homage to her extraordinary life and strong faith, the Sihla Skete was constructed in 1725. Her holy relics, which lay in the cave for a while, healed a lot of sick people. Now, the relics are located inside the Pecerska Monastery of Kiev, and have been called “The Holy Relics of the Venerable Teodora of the Carpathian Mountains”. Her holy relics have been in this holy establishment since 1852.
In June 1992 the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church canonized Venerable Teodora, adding her to the saints in the Orthodox Christian Calendar and to the Romanian Orthodox Synaxarion. Her dedication day is
celebrated on August 7th.

Skete of Venerable Daniel the Hermit – Coroi’s Precipice – Vanatori commune, Neamt county. Convent for monks, dedication days: “Venerable Daniel the Hermit”, “Prophet Elijah the Tishbite”, and “Protection of the Mother of God”. Between 1936 and 1937, several monks from the Sihastria Monastery retired for some months to a location that was called “Coroi’s Precipice” and built a cottage there. In 1955, long after the monks had left that place; two nuns from the Old Agapia Skete retired there having Father Cleopa’s blessing, and led an anchoritic life for thirty years.
For five years the cottage remained uninhabited. Thereafter, about 1990, a few monks also retired to the same cottage located in Coroi’s Precipice. Then, with the blessing of Metropolitan Daniel Ciobotea, they had the place consecrated with a view to building a church on the premises.
The skete was founded in 1996 and was consecrated by Metropolitan Daniel on August 4, 1996.

Lifting of the Holy Cross Skete – Poiana lui Ioan (Ioan’s Meadow) – Vanatori commune, Neamt county. Convent for monks, it was founded in 1990.

Skete of the Equals to the Apostles Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena – Boureni commune, Neamt county. Convent for monks. The former monastic life of the holy establishment was revived in 1991.

Skete of Venerable Teodora of Sihla – The Pascani Forest – Motca commune, Neamt county. Convent for monks. The monastic establishment was founded in 1990.

Skete of Martyr Meneas at Dumbrava – Dumbrava village, Neamt county. Convent